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Photo: Joe Proudman/Newark Star-Ledger
Photo: Joe Proudman/Newark Star-Ledger

Judge Esther Salas speaks out two weeks after attack on her family

In an emotional video released on Aug. 3, Salas called for more protections for federal judges.

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On the weekend of July 20, 2020, New Jersey federal judge Esther Salas and her husband Mark were throwing a 20th birthday party for their son, Daniel, and a few of his friends from Catholic University.

After the festivities, on July 20, Daniel was helping his mom clean up their house’s basement when a knock came at the door. He ran upstairs to answer and the next thing Salas heard were gunshots.

This was the series of events recounted by the federal judge in an emotional video released on Aug. 3, two weeks after the attack.

“Two weeks ago, my life as I knew it changed in an instant, and my family will never be the same,” Salas opened.

That Sunday, she was the alleged target of gunman Roy Den Hollander, who posed as a FedEx delivery man before firing on both Daniel and Mark, who answered the door.

Daniel passed away from a gunshot wound to his chest and Mark has had multiple surgeries since, and is still recovering in the hospital.

“We are living every parents’ worst nightmare: making preparations to bury our only child,” said Salas.

She went on to call for more protections for judges in her situation. Salas is the first Latina federal judge ever appointed to the bench in New Jersey.

“We may not stop something like this from happening again, but we can make it hard for those who target us to track us down,” said Salas.

In the video, she acknowledged the power of her position and its requirement that she make “tough calls.”

“That comes with the territory and we accept that,” said Salas. “But what we cannot accept is when we are forced to live in fear for our lives because personal information like our home addresses can easily be obtained by anyone seeking to do us or our families harm.”

Before Hollander’s final encounter with Salas’ family, his only interaction with her in the courtroom came in 2015 when he filed a class-action lawsuit against the Selective Service System. She allowed the case to proceed in 2018, but Hollander believed she was moving it forward too slowly.

The self-proclaimed men’s rights lawyer was found dead next to his rental car a day after the shooting from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Inside the rental car were also two FedEx packages — one was addressed to Salas, and the other targeted New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

Hollander is also suspected of murdering fellow men’s rights attorney Marc Angelucci in California on July 11, pulling the same stunt he did at Salas’ house a week later.

Salas also pointed out that Hollander was also in possession of a dossier detailing many aspects of her and her family’s life that he was able to obtain through the internet.

“We need to identify a solution that keeps the lives of federal judges private,” she said.

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